“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8
This summer I started a new initiative – “The Youth Justice Program.” We currently have 13 high school students engaged in a year long experiential training within local marginalized cultures. I am partnering with four local churches: Oceanhills, Montecito Covenant, Free Methodist Church, and Emanuel Lutheran.
First, the reason for creating the program is to raise up “healthy advocates” for the local poor. Over the past year I have visited every city council in the county at some point, and have experienced first hand the value of the church’s voice on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. I want to equip this generation to understand the issues facing those experiencing homelessness, at risk youth, or sex trafficking survivors. In order to do this we need to engage the younger generation in both the theology behind “advocacy” and the practice of “Biblical Justice.”
The summer has been full of experiences with friends without homes. Students have done a sock outreach with me on State Street and were able to visit the Alameda Park Meal Sharing and hear from Doctors without Walls, Common Ground Santa Barbara County, Westmont’s Bread of Life, and Uffizi. We are concluding this month with a visit to Mayor Helene Schneider and an opportunity for students to present what they have learned during public comment.
The picture below is from our first round of students visiting with Mayor Schneider and presenting at city council (Pictured: Jeff, Kairos, Mayor Helene Schneider, Lea). Another round of students will share in August. Lea Robins, a student from Montecito Covenant, did a tremendous job presenting her belief that we should do more for those experiencing mental illness on our streets.
Here is an excerpt from what she shared:
“Toward the end of our time at the park, I realized something. There was a man there I had seen many times on my way to school. The first day I saw him I was in the car and he was across the street in a catatonic state. Knowing that he was dealing with this but also homeless broke my heart. When I saw him at the meal sharing I decided to talk to him. My heart ached even more the longer he spoke because I began to realize he was a really good person. This has made me realize that there are many mentally disabled people without a home or a job and part of it may be that they are mentally ill.”
Thank you for supporting Uffizi and please pray for these students – as I know this year will have a huge impact on their spiritual development.